Animated Video Production

Trade Show Video Best Practices

Shawn Forno 01.30.2017

Last week we posted an article outlining the guidelines and best practices for creating a great convention, event, corporate training, sales pitch, or trade show video. That primer was full of practical tips to help your animated explainer video standout in a crowded, loud, competitive real world space. Now it’s time to take a deeper look at a few great examples of successful (and not so successful) trade show explainer videos and the four steps you need follow to make your trade show video a hit.

Obey the 5-Second Rule

Trade show attendees are mobile, and not in that whole “the future of media is mobile,” way. They’re literally on the move all the time. Trade show floors are massive labyrinths designed to induce aimless wandering. The upside of this is increased traffic and visibility, the downside—attention fatigue.

You have a very limited window to capture a trade show prospect’s attention—around five seconds to be precise. That’s the amount of time it takes for someone to walk past your booth at a leisurely pace, turn their head, slow to a crawl, and assess the value of stopping. Five seconds. Doesn’t sound like much time, does it? That’s because it isn’t.

Your video needs eye-catching visuals, a distinct branded color scheme, readable text, and a clear goal (more on all that in a second). Just remember that the amount of time you have to capture someone’s attention is roughly the time that a YouTube pre-roll ad. You have to be interesting, and you have to do it right away—even on a video loop.

Great Trade Show Video Example—No Burn

What We Like: Creates Urgency, Focuses on the Target Audience, Easy to Read Text, Clear Selling Point

While this isn’t the slickest trade show video on the block—the grey background, lack of graphics and imagery, and bad transitions are rough—it is effective. The video begins with an direct, attention-grabbing statement: “Your Best Option…Fire Protection.” I didn’t even know I needed fire protection, but after that intro, I can spare a few minutes to see if it’s right for me.

The video keeps the focus on the viewer—not the company culture or last year’s impressive sales numbers. It’s quick, effective. Any trade show video that can get you interested right away is a powerful asset.

Bad Trade Show Video Example

What We Don’t Like: Large Blocks of Text, Static Background Image, Boring, Inward Facing Content

Your trade show video is not a corporate About Us page. It’s a sales pitch, and a brief one. The large blocks of text are difficult to read, unexciting, and don’t add any value to the viewer. It takes a full 30 seconds before the video shows any of the trucks they sell. That’s way too long. It might be useful on a loop, but there is just too much dead air, useless information, and lack of energy.

Capture the Mood with Music

No one can hear voiceover on a trade show floor even up close, let alone at a distance. If you somehow manage to get the most amazing voice actor on earth, quality speakers, and a system that projects the voiceover into the area, you still have to deal with the same scripted voice in your booth—on a loop—for the entire trade show.

Dialogue conflicts with your real life sales reps and annoys trade show attendees. Skip the voiceover and spend some of your video budget on finding the right soundtrack for your video, particularly the right mood.

A great song to can inspire, emote, rally, and attract viewers. Focus on what you want your target viewer to feel and create the mood of your video accordingly. Music licensing sites like Marmoset will even let you browse for music by “mood” keywords like “upbeat, anthemic, confident, and so on.

But remember, that your soundtrack is only there to service the most important part of your video—the visuals.

Trade Show Video with Great Music—Rubbermaid

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of companies don’t feature their actual product in their trade show video.CEOs, brand managers, and even the designers talk about the product, explain the dimensions or features, but they don’t make the product or service the star. Start your video with a good look at your product. What does it do? How does it do it? Keep the lens on the product (literally), and the video will be a hit. It’s really that simple.

Show off. It’s ok, people are at this trade show to see what you’ve got. A trade show booth is not the time to be coy or shy. Put your product or service center stage and show off the features. It’s a great way to create excitement, manage expectations, and attract motivated prospects.

Trade Show Video with Great Product Shots: Every Apple iPhone Launch Ever

What We Like: Easy to read text, helpful specs, and beautiful product shots. Over and over and over and over…

Apple fanboys practically live for these luscious product release videos. Steal a page from Apple’s playbook and make your product (and the specs) the star of the show.

Bad Trade Show Video Product Shots: Samsung 840 EVO SSD Drive

What We Don’t Like: Bad acting, voiceover, no product shots, small text, hard to read text

That video is rough to watch, but hopefully you can take away a few key lessons. Don’t use bad actors (or any actors, really), don’t display small difficult to read text, and don’t wait 2 minutes to feature your actual product. This video is a master class in what not to do. Watch it again—if you can.

Make Your Trade Show Video Visible from a Distance

The average trade show booth is only 10’ x 10’. That’s not a lot of real estate to work with. You could invest in a larger booth or a premium location, but be prepared to pay a lot for any extra space or positioning—up to $150 per square foot. A better option is to make your booth stand out in the crowd with a highly visible explainer video. A high-quality video creates a “virtual booth” that stretches beyond your stand as far as line of sight allows. This makes your trade show booth more visible—but only if the video is designed properly. Here’s how you design your video to be seen from space.

Use Large, Bold Sans Serif Text

Make sure the font weight of the text in your video is heavy. That means bold. Also, avoid serif fonts like Georgia or Baskerville. Serif fonts clutter the image with unnecessary flourishes that make text difficult to read at a distance.

Black Text with a White Outline is Visible Over Any Color

A simple way to make your text readable over any color or graphic is with a small white border. Seriously, it’s that easy in most cases. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always legible.

trade show video best practices

Don’t Overdo the Transitions

Wipes, peels, and animations are a fun way to capture viewers eyes, but if your text or graphics flicker in and out faster than people can process the information, no one will stick around to engage with your reps. Don’t create a strobe light. Keep images and graphics on the screen for around 3-5 seconds after they appear to allow for recognition.

Recycle Your Video after the Trade Show

The best part of investing in a quality trade show explainer video is that you can recycle it on your website, YouTube channel, email outreach, newsletters, and even sales pitches and proposals down the road. A clean, well-made video has dozens of practical uses long after the trade show happy hour ends and you head home.

Follow these steps and create a killer explainer video for your next trade show and reap the ROI for not just one day, but for years to come.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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